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Behind the scenes at Divvy headquarters

There are no signs or banners on this nondescript industrial warehouse in West Town to indicate that the 18,000-square-foot structure is headquarters for what could soon become the largest commuter cycling system in the country.

"It's intentional," Divvy Deputy General Manager Elliot Greenberger said. "We're off the radar."

Light blue paint is still fresh on the walls at the command center for Divvy, the bike-sharing program the city launched five months ago. Much of the office furniture consists of folding tables and chairs. As you enter the warehouse where the fleet is brought in for service, you pass an otherwise empty corner where the company's promotional bike, painted red to stand out from the sea of blue-tinted cycles, is parked. The program is owned by Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share.

In front of dozens of tagged bikes waiting for service, a group of Divvy technicians works to replace tubes, tires and pedals. Near the ceiling, a giant Lollapalooza lineup hangs over the two-story warehouse, a remnant of a video production company that was the building's previous tenant. Outside, Divvy rebalancing trucks come and go, hauling away as many as 28 bikes at a time to put back into the system.

Things are constantly moving at Divvy, just as Chicago is poised to shed its Second City title when it comes to bikes.

The program is on track to become the largest bike-sharing system in North America next year, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, expanding from 330 stations to 475 throughout the city. With that, it would surge ahead of current No. 1 Montreal (434) and No. 2 New York (331). With additional grant funding, the suburbs of Evanston and Oak Park could see their first glimpses of the light-blue bikes in 2014.

Greenberger said he does expect a slowdown as ice and snow make their way into Chicago this winter. But it doesn't mean Divvy won't be busy. In fewer than six months, riders have traveled more than 1.5 million miles in just fewer than 650,000 trips in the system of about 5,000 bikes. As the total number of stations is expected to climb next year, Greenberger expects numbers will continue to climb, especially if history is any indication.

"We were seeing as many as four to five trips per day [during the summer]," he said. "That's a metric some cities take years to get to."

mswasko@tribune.com

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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